[Image courtesy of democurmudgeon]
[Editor's note: the photo above isn't intended as an editorial statement - it's just a cool picture.]
2012 was a busy year for elections in Wisconsin: the combination of a presidential vote and several hard-fought recalls meant that some Badger State voters went to the polls 5 times in a single year. Now, thanks to my friends at Pew, we have some new data from the state's Government Accountability Board on what all of that cost the state - $37 million.
Not surprisingly, the November general election cost the most (over $10 million) but the other four elections - the presidential primary, a recall primary and recall general and then a state partisan primary - each cost between about $5.8 and $7.7 million apiece.
Consistent with previous data, pollworker pay comprised about one-third of those costs (almost $12.5 million), with pay for local election officials not that far behind at about $10.1 million. The rest is divided among costs for training, equipment programming and other line items.
$37 million seems like a lot of money, but when you take into account that Wisconsin has a "voting eligible" population of about 4.2 million (as of the end 2012), the cost works out to less than $9 apiece. Those numbers obvious will vary from election to election - as we've seen before - but it quickly becomes clear that the figures are driven mostly by the scope of a statewide vote.
How does Wisconsin stack up against other states? We don't know; most states don't collect or report this kind of data - if they did, we'd have a better sense of how well different states manage the cost of elections. Until then, Wisconsin continues to pace the nation on the effort to disclose what exactly it costs t make it possible for citizens to go to the polls.